Who’s Your Daddy? Intelligent Design Creationism at Harvard Law School

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The following is a guest post from Steven Thomas Smith. Steve is on the Senior Technical Staff in the Lincoln Laboratory at MIT, and more importantly is a Project Steve Steve. He attended the Jay Wexler/Francis Beckwith debate on the constitutionality of teaching ID in public schools at Harvard Law School, and gave us this report. We welcome this submission and encourage others to send us well-reasoned and insightful guest blog essays, particularly if your name is Steve.

Harvard Law School, said by some to be the world’s second best, demands of its students a “record of marked distinction.” Last year, Harvard Law Review editor Lawrence VanDyke, 2L, achieved this lofty status by publishing a besotted review of Francis Beckwith’s book about the constitutionality of Intelligent Design creationism in public schools. VanDyke’s insipid and error-filled piece (“not even wrong” in Pauli’s words) would have been eminently ignorable had it not appeared in the often respected Law Review, and this fact alone attracted a dogpile of criticism involving political columnists, science policy writers, lawyers, biologists, and the Panda’s Thumb. VanDyke, revealing that his motives were those of a clueless dupe, and not a Machiavellian operator, actually responded to this withering barrage with an even more cluelessly clueless post at HLS’s Federalist Society (in which he cites “Project Steve” as proof that 1% of scientists doubt evolution!), ensuring that much fun was had by all.

Aside from the fun, this affair generated a few potentially positive results: it revealed the unscrupulous conduct of Francis Beckwith’s graduate assistant Hunter Baker, and it prompted HLS’s Federalist Society to invite Beckwith to come to Harvard to debate the constitutionality of ID with Jay Wexler. I attended this debate last week, and offer the following observations.

The room, a medium-size lecture hall at the law school, was filled to capacity with about 45 people, apparently with many law students, and as far as I could tell a handful of ID supporters, and even one person from Boston University Law who told me after the debate that he posts at the Pandas Thumb. The debate itself was organized into two 17-minute statements, followed by two 7-minute statements, with audience questions allowed afterwards. Professor Beckwith went first.

Before going, I read some of Beckwith’s posts on the Pandas Thumb – his presentation contained nothing new that I could discern, but it was remarkable that that Beckwith parroted long discredited arguments (invoking William Dembski and Michael Behe; he even brought a copy of the Axe article to support the claim that ID is published in peer-reviewed scientific journals). Nonetheless, his presentation of ID was very polished and, I would imagine, speciously appealing to many not familiar with the facts. Beckwith himself is personally charming, handsome, well-dressed, and well-spoken. Though his statements about ID are factually baseless, Beckwith is a skillful rhetorician.

Jay Wexler’s presentation was competent, but bloodless. He focused much more on the subject at hand – the legal aspects of teaching ID in public schools. One of his main themes was the reasonable person test. I don’t believe that Beckwith addressed Wexler’s legal criticisms well, and though I am not knowledgeable about scoring debates, would judge that the victory would have to have gone to Wexler on the weakness of Beckwith’s response to Wexler’s legal points.

But certainly Beckwith was not at Harvard to “win” a legal debate. His presentation was consistent with one whose goal is to sow doubt about evolution, and to gain more recruits and allies than he already has. Toward these ends, I judge that Beckwith performed well.

I did have concerns about Wexler’s performance addressing Beckwith’s claims that ID is scientifically valid. Everything Professor Wexler said was correct (“there is no scientific controversy about evolution”, “there are zero peer-reviewed ID papers or possibly a few, but it’s not mainstream”), but I will say that I was disappointed by Wexler’s handing of this issue – he said the absolute bare minimum of what could have been said, and I’m not sure if allayed any doubts about the science sowed by Beckwith. I want to emphasize that I am not criticizing Wexler – he could have great reasons for his treatment that I do not know, e.g., debate strategy or knowledge of the arguments that would appeal to the largely legal audience. But his treatment allowed Beckwith to score a few points, like waving Axe’s journal paper around in support of ID; Wexler simply responded that he didn’t know about this paper.

Interestingly, Beckwith said that he had been asked but declined to testify as an expert witness in the Dover, PA ID creationism trial in September. (Too bad.)

I did not have the impression that there was a great deal of knowledge about the true state of science in the audience – indeed, it was my impression that not too many people were not aware of the relevant facts, and a vigorous defense of science did not seem forthcoming.

During the audience question period, I identified myself and mentioned that I am a participant in Project Steve (of which some in the audience seemed to be aware), then challenged Beckwith’s introductory assertions that ID is scientific, not religious, by citing the following three facts:

  • Religious motivations are behind ID, as they admit themselves:

    “Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions”

  • ID is funded by religious fundamentalists, especially Howard Ahmanson Jr., who has also funded Christian Reconstructionism, which wants the the U.S. “under the control of biblical law.” Mr. Ahmanson has said his goal is “the total integration of biblical law into our lives.”
  • ID and ID’s criticism’s of evolution are nonsense. For example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s statement on ID says

    “the ID movement has failed to offer credible scientific evidence to support their claim that ID undermines the current scientifically accepted theory of evolution”

    Also, Scientific American magazine’s article “15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense” explains why ID claims are nonsense.

After making a well-received joke about how many Stephanies were in the audience, Beckwith responded most immediately to the mention of Ahmanson and biblical law. He said that I was making the fallacy of association, that Barbara Forrest belonged to the ACLU, that Howard Ahmanson doesn’t “believe in Christian Reconstructionism anymore”, and suggested that sometimes people are criticized for their Christian religious beliefs. He was clearly off guard and somewhat clumsy in making these points, allowing me to point out the inconsistency of the first two, ridicule the third, and express resentment at the suggestion of the fourth, thus closing our exchange on the subject of Beckwith’s misguided defense of his religious beliefs. He never addressed or even hinted at a defense of ID as science.

I do not know what the audience’s general reaction was – one person clapped (briefly) at my remarks, and I had cordial and respectful discussions with a few of Beckwith’s supporters afterwards, as well as Beckwith himself. None of his supporters were at all aware of the scientific response to the anti-evolution arguments they had (e.g., evolution violates 2LoT[!]), so all I could do was listen to them, respond very briefly, and direct them toward the talkorigins archive for comprehensive details.

The big thing I learned is that much more attention in pro-science circles should be given to speaking events/debates given by Wedge members. At an event at Harvard Law School, I actually heard uninformed muttering from a person in the audience about reading in the Wall Street Journal of a pro-ID scientist being fired from the Smithsonian Institute.

This is not a scientific debate – this is a rhetorical conflict, and the Wedge does a much better job with rhetoric than scientists, who are trained to convince each other with facts and evidence alone.

Because there is no scientific debate about the validity of evolution, or the fatuity of Intelligent Design creationism, scientists must not debate these subjects on the same stage as creationists because they will only serve the creationist rhetorical end of being taken seriously. But that does not mean that scientists and supporters of scientists cannot attend discussions where nonscientific issues are the focus, and employ the same rhetorical methods used by our opponents. After all, Aristotle calls upon us to use rhetoric in the service of truth and justice:

Aristotle Wrote:

“Rhetoric is useful because the true and the just are naturally superior to their opposites, so that, if decisions are improperly made, they must owe their defeat to their own advocates; which is reprehensible. Further, in dealing with certain persons, even if we possessed the most accurate scientific knowledge, we should not find it easy to persuade them by the employment of such knowledge. For scientific discourse is concerned with instruction, but in the case of such persons instruction is impossible.” – Aristotle, Art of Rhetoric, Book 1

Debunking Intelligent Design creationism is important not simply because ID is wrong – it’s downright dangerous in these times of DNA economies and bioterrorism.

While this subject is in the public’s eye, no Wedge member should be able to speak in public without a strong challenge to their claim that Intelligent Design creationism is scientific and not religiously motivated.

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In Part 1, I pointed out that, apart from the role played by the right-wing media (including columnists/bloggers), the liberal media myth persists largely because of the role currently played by four groups of people: academics, politicians on the left... Read More

187 Comments

Hello Professor Smith; I am the BU Law student with whom you spoke briefly afterwards.

Interested readers can look at my own review posted on talk.origins. (For what it’s worth, I had considered submitting it to PT, but hadn’t known how receptive the admins would be to guest contributions, especially one as informally composed and from someone as academically uncredentialled as myself; if anyone in authority thinks it might be worth reprinting I’d be willing to revise it, otherwise this link should be fine. I have since corresponded with Professor Beckwith and gotten a more extended reply, as well as a list of “peer-reviewed” citations to which he referred, and I am currently in the process of composing a follow-up post on some issues arising from that correspondence. Persons can contact me if they’re interested, or just wait for it to appear on t.o.)

I should have to add that while I appreciate your comments, I did include a critical note on the manner with which you delivered them – after the moderator asked you to allow someone else to speak, you did begin to lose some supporters in the audience, I only wished a little more tact had been involved. That having been said, I agree %110 with each of your statements, as well as your frustration involved in making them.

Thank you for this piece! As an HLS alum, I have been deeply ashamed by the ignorance on display by some of the students. I was a 3L when VanDyke wrote his obsequious book review, and Professor Leiter was absolutely right to call it academic fraud.

I was even more disturbed by the support VanDyke got from some students on campus. I assume the invitation to Beckwith comes from the same people, for the same purposes. There is a very well organized and very influential core of conservative extremists at HLS, as, I would imagine, at most law schools, and the impression that I got last year was that some of those students were willing to support creationism and creationists for cultural and political reasons. This is merely my opinion, of course.

Obviously, this state of affairs distresses me. We can’t expect law students to be scientists, or even to understand science, but we can and should expect them to not be credulous fools or callow manipulators.

I’m glad that Steve submitted this. I found out about the debate only the day before it occurred, but if I hadn’t had other commitments I was seriously considering hopping a shuttle to Cambridge to attend. I tried to get someone from the Harvard Evo. Bio. graduate labs to attend, but they weren’t interested. It pleases me to no end that there were articulate and educated defenders of objective science in attendance to ask questions and limit Beckwith’s misinformation.

Since we will not succeed in having no events, we ought to be prepared for such things. There are a couple of useful points here. First, don’t make it a “debate.” We had a similar event here but the format was short presentations answering a series of questions. This helped diminish the utility of rhetorical tricks. Secondly, the presence of scientists or other such experts at such events is crucial - it reduces the opportunity for fundie cheerleading.

I was struck by Hierosant’s remark (in his TO posting referenced above) that

[Note: after the talk he [Beckwith] explained that the list had actually been given to him by one William Dembski; I am currently in the process of obtaining this list.

One wonders if Beckwith would similarly wave around a law review article that someone had handed to him claiming it supported some position, without himself being even competent to evaluate whether it did in fact support the claimed point. The alleged scholarship of the Beckwiths of the world seems to evaporate when they’re talking about areas far outside their professional competence but dear to their heats.

RBH

Um. That’s “hearts”, not “heats”.

Beckwith is footsoldier happily serving the “idiot culture” recently recognized by the journalist Carl Bernstein.

Steve Smith

But that does not mean that scientists and supporters of scientists cannot attend discussions where nonscientific issues are the focus, and employ the same rhetorical methods used by our opponents.

Unfortunatley, my conscience prevents me from uttering the slick smooth pleasing lies that are peddled by Francis Beckwith every time he speaks or puts pen to paper.

But I agree with Smith that scientists and science supporters should take advantage of every opportunity to pull the carpet out from under Beckwith and the charlatans whose activities he defends. It’s easily done, as has been demonstrated here on numerous occasions.

The key is to never ever ever let go of the carpet when Beckwith et al. crank up the smoke machines, which is the inevitable response as Beckwith’s encounter with Smith demonstrated (“fallacy of association”? does it get any more pathetic than that????). A laser beam focus is what is necessary because, as anyone who has tracked the activities of creationist apologists (e.g., our trolls) knows, the over-riding strategy is dissembling and reliance on short memories (e.g., pretending that odd unsupported statements were never made, addressing the form of questions rather than the substance, etc.).

Just as a side note, I wonder how many amusing ways there are too address that “peer reviewed article”. In addition to simply knowing sort of garbage is in the article, one might have another peer reviewed paper in a prestigious journal to wave around such as this one

http://66.221.71.68/content/research/sria.htm

followed by an obvious question regarding the significance of such an article for the scientific validity of a charlatan’s claims.

RBH – I have since obtained the list, and the journal articles in question were exclusively philosophical in nature. (there were also some of the “usual suspects” in the monographs department: Darwin’s Black Box, The Design Inference, etc.) In Professor Beckwith’s defense, he does have a degree in philosophy and is published in philosophy journals, so I would have to say he is at least qualified to speak upon those issues. That they were not scientific in nature (except for the Axe article), however, makes its own point about the basis of ID.

I’ve discussed the Axe paper and its applicability to ID here, if anyone is interested.

Beckwith’s legal analysis assumes that intelligent design has some science to back it. He assumes that there is enough science there that an expert could be qualified at trial, which is patently untrue.

Were that the case, yes, there would be a debate in science.

But since that is not the case, then the holdings in McLean v. Arkansas, and Edwards v. Aguillard would govern any legal case. Without dramatic additional science demonstrations from intelligent design advocates, either disproving the Darwinian synthesis completely (which could not occur) or providing dramatic evidence of the workings of intelligent design (photos of the designer at work, for example, with a video interview, and demonstrated results such as the total evisceration of anthrax, or the total eradication of hemorrhagic fevers), then Dr. Beckwith’s assumption is legally unsound.

Consequently, anyone who relied on his advice that teaching ID would be constitutional would be caught with his or her constitutional pants down. Unfortunately for Dover, PA, Beckwith is not a lawyer, and note their counsel, so they will be unable to pursue him to reimburse them for bad advice. This is the ultimate sin of intelligent design advocates, it seems to me, that they distract from science and waste the time and resources of public offices, all on someone else’s money.

Did Ahmanson repudiate Reconstructionism? Where did he do that? It’s news, if it’s true. I doubt that’s the case.

In Professor Beckwith’s defense, he does have a degree in philosophy and is published in philosophy journals, so I would have to say he is at least qualified to speak upon those issues. That they were not scientific in nature (except for the Axe article), however, makes its own point about the basis of ID.

But he was presented as a legal expert to the Texas State Board of Education in 2003. Is he being more careful now? He’s not retracted any of his law review writings that I am aware.

A couple of initial points. First, it is “guilt by asociation fallacy,” not “association fallacy.” As I pointed out to Steve at the debate and for about 10 minutes afterwards that this is mistake in reasoning, one that apparently is not considered mistaken at MIT. (The MIT comment did get a rise out of the Harvard students, it seemed to me). My citation of Forrest’s connection to the ACLU was an illustration of the sort of arugment I WOULD NOT MAKE precisely because it is “guilt by association.” My point was to show that if people on my side offered the same sort of reasoning, it would be just as bad. Steve cut me off before I could complete the Forrest illustration fully, but the audience got it. That’s why when I told him that he misunderstood me and that in fact I was using this as an example of why his argument is bad, the audience giggled, with numerous members smiled to ear to ear, since they clearly knew that Steve did not get it. The complete illustration, which Steve, because of his continuous interruptions did not allow to make, was to go like this: the ACLU believes that child porn is protected by the First Amendment; Forrest is associated with the ACLU in some leadership capacity (or at least has been); Forrest opposes ID; the ACLU opposes ID; therefore, ID opponents are linked to defenses of the First Amendment protection of child porng. That would be a really, really, bad argument to make, since it is a fallacy, “guilt by assocation.” It has no bearing on the quality of the case against ID.

Second, Steve is completely mistaken about my presentation. I did not defend ID. My purpose at the debate was merely to offer an argument as to why teaching ID was not unconstitutional. In fact, I made the point, as I have always made the point, that as a matter of policy I am against school districts requiring the teaching of ID. I also told the audience that my views on ID are not fully formed, though I think some of the arguments offered by ID advocates raise important philosophical questions about the nature of knowledge and science, even if they turn out to have no place in public school classrooms. I did offer an overview of the sorts of cases presented by ID advocates, but it was purely descriptive and made no pronuncements as to their quality or strength. So, Steve was not listening very carefully, since he probably heard what he wanted to hear rather than what I actually said in my prepared comments.

Third, during our interaction, I was completely transparent about my own Christian pilgrimage, sharing with the audience my concern as a Christian philosopher to understand the philosophical implications of my faith and how best to articulate that in a world of contrary points of view. I then went on to tell Steve and the audience that the best I can do is to offer my case, and that those that disagree should focus on the veracity of my premises and the validity and strength of my inferences. If my arguments fail, so be it. But they fail or stand regardless of the vessel that carries them. To target that vessel–me–rather than the arguments I offer, is a disreputible tactic, one that will not take us very far.

Fourth, Steve didn’t tell you that I specifically addressed Howard Ahmanson in a very personal way. I told him and the audience that between 1997 and 2002, my wife and I attended St. James Episcopal Church in Newport Beach, California. There we had the opportunity to meet Howard, a long-time member. I had no idea about his support of Discovery until around 2000 or so. When I caught wind of his reconstructionist views, it troubled me as well, since I am a strong defender of liberal democracy and strong proponent of religious liberty. So, I asked him about it. He said that he had abandoned those views years ago. I informed Steve and the audience of this and told him to stop recycling the NCSE talking points without doing the sort of research that he accuses his enemies of not doing. Apparently, this made no impression on him, for, without scruple or conscience, he posts this falsehood yet again, even though he was informed that it was false. (Now, I understand why he may not take my word for this. But in that case, he should abstain from mentioning it until he finds out for sure).

Fifth, you pandasthumb guys should know that Steve’s public decorum was not flattering to your point of view. He came across as someone who was vidictive, hurtful, and obssessed with associations and connections, and not very interested or conversant with the debate that had happened right in front of him. The audience seemed uneasy with his injection of religious motivation as a litmus test to exclude certain points of view from the public square, since these very bright members of the Harvard community understand all too well that an argument’s soundness is not contingent upon the motivation of its defender.

Sixth, I don’t think I was flustered at all. I was chomping at the bit from the very moment I knew where Steve was going with this. (Maybe this is “Steve projecting”). If there’s anything I love to do is to expose people’s logical fallacies and use the incident as a teaching opportunity for the audience. Because Steve was facing me and not the audience, he did not see their faces when they realized that his “guilt by association” argument was a logical fallacy. To me, it looked like a beatific vision: one cycloptic lone ranger sounding like Joseph McCarthy exposing communists. Frankly, I thought he was a gift from God. When debating in front of an intelligent crowd you hope for one guy with an axe to grind and a cluster of logical fallacies.

Seventh, I wish Colin had been there. He would have been proud of the good quetions offered by the students of his alma mater. One student in particular stood out. I found out later that he is a 1L with an MA from Oxford under philosopher Richard Swinburne. It was clear from his question that he fully understood the underlying issues in the philosophy of science.

Eighth, Professor Wexler was most gracious. He and I started off with pretty good jokes. Mine went like this: “My wife asked me when I would ever be invited to speak at Harvard Law School. I answered, ‘the day the Red Sox win the World Series.” Wexler opened up by telling us of a time when he was undergrad at Harvard and a member of the debate team. He said that they had lost an important match to Baylor and he hoped that this was not a preview of things to come. Very classy.

Ninth, Ed, I do have a PhD in philosophy (Fordham) as well a graduate degree in law from the Washington University School of Law, St. Louis (Master of Juridical Studies). As part of that degree, I wrote a thesis called “Rethinking Edwards v. Aguillard?,” which eventually (in revised form) became my book and three law review articles. I am not a lawyer, but I do have academic training in the field.

Tenth, my wife thinks I’m handsome too. :-)

I’ve been really lazy on putting together a summary of the debate for my blogs. Thanks to Steve, he’s inspired me to write all this stuff and speed it up. Thanks.

I well understand that you have a graduate degree in legal studies – not a graduate law degree – from Washington U. The basis of my complaint is that you appear to have little understanding of what evidence is, and how evidence plays a role in court, in a real case like McLean v. Arkansas, or perhaps more to the point, in a case involving summary judgment against a law that requires something like ID to be included in curriculum, such as Edwards v. Aguillard.

If a lawyer with a license were to advise a client to “go ahead and teach it, it’s constitutional,” I would hope sanctions would apply against the lawyer at some point.

You have assumed that ID is science. It’s not. You’ve assumed that the science can be well demonstrated in a courtroom. No one has tried. It is unjustified, therefore, to make the leap to the position that teaching ID in a government-sponsored science class could be constitutional. I think the repeating of this canard is part of what makes non-legal scholars, like Tom DeLay, angry when the judges merely apply the law that exists, instead of the law that non-party partisans have told DeLay and others could exist.

One could, philosophically, argue that the Federal Aviation Administration should regulate effluents from pigs, if it can be shown that pigs do fly. The effluents could, arguably, pose a hazard to commercial and recreational aviation, and they could have effects on the ground around pig airports. If the pigs fly in FAA-regulated areas, then the law is pretty clear that they fall into the purview of the FAA.

But if the FAA shows up at an Arkansas pig farm to inspect the pigs, the farmer would be well within his rights to throw them off the farm. Pigs don’t fly, no matter the philosophical validity of the FAA’s having jurisdiction, if they did.

ID is not science. That pig hasn’t even sprouted wings yet.

Incidentally, that’s part of the practical reason that courts don’t offer advisory opinions. Courts rule where there is a genuine case or controversy. It’s interesting to see that neither side in the Dover case is long on scientists as expert witnesses. No one in the case really thinks ID is science, it appears, at least not to the point that there will be much litigation about it. I’m reminded of the displeasure from the Creationist Research Society that none of them were called as experts at the Arkansas trial, for either side. They were really miffed. Can you imagine?

Mr. Beckwith,

Would you mind giving us an idea of an ID lesson plan?

I mean if you claim it is legal to teach ID, I’d like to know what will be taught.

Personally, I don’t know whether it’s “legal” to teach ID. I hope not, as it seems to me to be pretty much a religious thing, and I like to think the Constitution would not allow that. But to try to delimit Stuart Weinstein’s question just a little, how would Dr. Beckwith assess the legality of teaching the following potential topics:

christianity history of christianity history of the bible history of miracles science of miracles astrology

(No baiting intended, really. I’m honestly curious. I assume, for instance, Dr. Beckwith doesn’t put any stock in astrology, but suppose my kid’s teacher does. Are there laws against his teaching it?)

A couple of initial points. First, it is “guilt by asociation fallacy,” not “association fallacy.” (blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah) It has no bearing on the quality of the case against ID.

The “case against ID”? You mean the claim that “ID” is scientifically vapid and that it is nothing more than a political tool used to wedge religion into science classrooms?

That claim? It seems to me that if I claim that “ID” is nothing more than a political tool used to wedge religion into science classrooms, then pointing out where the money comes from to fund the hordes of script-reciters and how the wheels of that political machine are apt to turn is certainly valid. Indeed, I would argue that it is an essential point.

Your Forrest “analogy” of course is just a smoke screen. “Creationism in public schools and theocrats? If they go together, then so does the ACLU and protecting child porn.” Just lovely, Mr. Beckwith.

I also told the audience that my views on ID are not fully formed

Huh. Did you include this disclaimer in your article in The Recorder?

I am a strong defender of liberal democracy and strong proponent of religious liberty.

But an extraordinarily weak defender of science education. Go figure.

I understand why [Steve] may not take my word for [something Ahmanson allegedly told me about Ahmanson’s alleged change of views regarding the promotion of Ahmanson’s religion]. But in that case, he should abstain from mentioning it until he finds out for sure

So how is Steve supposed to find out what Ahmanson “really thinks.”

And how is Ahmanson’s funding of the Discovery Institute inconsistent with the goals of Johnsonite Christianity?

Harvard community understand all too well that an argument’s soundness is not contingent upon the motivation of its defender.

But appreciating why an argument that is so utterly bogus is even being discussed at Harvard is very much contingent on understanding the motivation of the arguments defenders.

Care to dispute that, Mr. Beckwith?

When debating in front of an intelligent crowd you hope for one guy with an axe to grind and a cluster of logical fallacies.

It’s even better if the “intelligent” crowd doesn’t understand the pseudoscientific garbage that you’re defending in spite of the fact that “your ideas aren’t fully formed” (how mealy-mouthed can you get, Beckwith)?

Ed. I don’t recognize my arguments in your comments. As you know, if you have read my book, I am not offering legal advice to teachers. I am assessing a debate over Constitutional Law. To employ an illustration, prior to our current First Amendment regime, lawyers argued in law reviews that hard core pornography is protected by the Constitution, even though those lawyers would not advise their individual clients to start purchasing pornography. So, there is a difference between the sort of advice one may give a client, and the more scholarly debate about the nature of our legal regime and what sorts of actions are permissible under it.

If you want to call my MJS a degree in “legal studies,” that’s fine with me. Yale offers a similar degree, “Master of Studies in Law,” which you may want to call “law studies.” In any event, I very enjoyed the experience at Wash. U. School of Law and learned a lot as a result. I worked with some fine scholars, and I think it was the best way I could have spent my sabbatical year in 2000-01. I know that the JD does not require a thesis, which is unfortunate for you, for you didn’t have the opportunity, as I did, to engage in sustained scholarly reflection on the law with one of the finest legal philosophers in the world (Stanley Paulsen).

Stuart. I have none in mind. Perhaps it can’t practically be done. But I’ll leave that to the curricular gurus to assess. But remember that my project is strictly concerned with the Constitutional question and not the curricular one. I do offer an illustration of a possible scenario of a teacher tangentially presenting ID for a few minutes in his science class. You can find it in my San Diego Law Review article, which is posted on my website. The purpose of the illustration is to cash out the implications of academic freedom in a thought experient.

Having read Beckwith’s version above, and noting his total non-mention of the (two) reports of his having proffered Axe’s paper as somehow representing ID in the peer reviewed scientific literature, one is left with a single question: Is Beckwith a willing participant in Dembksi’s repeated misrepresentations of that paper, or is he merely an ignorant tool?

RBH

So, there is a difference between the sort of advice one may give a client, and the more scholarly debate about the nature of our legal regime and what sorts of actions are permissible under it.

Where does fabrication and lying fit into all this? The ID charlatans seem to thrive on deception and dissembling. Is that relevant Mr. Beckwith? Or do you “lack the background” to assess those issues so, what the heck, might as well just assume that ID isn’t just a bogus propoganda tool wielded by Christian extremists, for arguments sake.

Is that how it works?

Will you defend the teaching of Prayericle Theory in public school Physics class when Fallwell and Roberston decide to spend $150 million promoting it? Or do you need Dembski’s approval?

I’m trying to figure out when an idea becomes “fully formed” in that head of yours.

Dr. Beckwith, an easy question for you, if you’re willing:

Please explain the difference, if any, between: ID, tauromancy, astrology, creationism. Please explain if they can all be teached in schools, according to your thesis and, if not, why not. From what you’ve said so far, you’d think that changing “ID” by “UFO sightings” shouldn’t change anything at all. Is it really so?

Hope that helps,

Grey Wolf

Colin wrote: “We can’t expect law students … even to understand science.” Actually, we can. Legal reasoning is not far different from scientific reasoning. As a lawyer who works on a daily basis with engineers, biologists and chemists, I have a professional obligation to understand the scientific method. And frankly, i’m damn tired of too many young lawyers abdicating their responsibility of understanding the bases of the opinions given by experts and consultants.

ok, so i’m grumpy. Mr. Beckwith is, as usual, assuming his conclusion. I look forward to hearing from him as to what other psuedo-scientific disciplines he has not yet formed an opinion, so he can then pontificate on the suitability of teaching additional dreck to our nation’s youth on taxpayer dollars.

One could, philosophically, argue that the Federal Aviation Administration should regulate effluents from pigs, if it can be shown that pigs do fly. The effluents could, arguably, pose a hazard to commercial and recreational aviation, and they could have effects on the ground around pig airports. If the pigs fly in FAA-regulated areas, then the law is pretty clear that they fall into the purview of the FAA.

But if the FAA shows up at an Arkansas pig farm to inspect the pigs, the farmer would be well within his rights to throw them off the farm. Pigs don’t fly, no matter the philosophical validity of the FAA’s having jurisdiction, if they did.

ID is not science. That pig hasn’t even sprouted wings yet.

We should have some kind of award for best comment of the day…

Stuart. I have none in mind. Perhaps it can’t practically be done. But I’ll leave that to the curricular gurus to assess. But remember that my project is strictly concerned with the Constitutional question and not the curricular one.

SW: Well, why would you knock yourself out with the constitutionality of teaching ID, when you don’t know what can be taught? I see above that your ideas on ID aren’t fully formed. The fundamental question you need to answer for yourself, is “Is ID science?” Moreover, until the curricular question has an answer, I can’t imagine any court taking it seriously. I mean how can the IDers say “Teach the controversy” then lay an egg when it comes to showing how ID and the “controversies” should be taught? Which is one reason why the DI seems to have back peddled from Dover.

I do offer an illustration of a possible scenario of a teacher tangentially presenting ID for a few minutes in his science class.

SW: And what would your reaction be to a physics teacher tangentially presenting astrology or phologiston theory in class? presenting alchemy in Chemistry class?

You can find it in my San Diego Law Review article, which is posted on my website.

SW: I will check that out.

The purpose of the illustration is to cash out the implications of academic freedom in a thought experient.

SW: This may simply be a thought experiment to you, but its not helpful to science education if the premises upon which the experiment are based are faulty. In the mean time, here is some food for thought. As Sagan put it, there’s a difference between having an open mind and a hole in the head. Not every system of investigation falls under that which we call “science”. The issue isn’t academic freedom. The issue is what qualifies as science. I wouldn’t have objections to Bible stories, ID etc. being taught in public schools in a comparative religion class. I do object to such things being taught as science. I also object to disclaimers being placed on high school science text books for reasons having nothing to do with science. Actually I’d am curious to know where you stand on the “disclaimers” business.

RBH writes: “Having read Beckwith’s version above, and noting his total non-mention of the (two) reports of his having proffered Axe’s paper as somehow representing ID in the peer reviewed scientific literature, one is left with a single question: Is Beckwith a willing participant in Dembksi’s repeated misrepresentations of that paper, or is he merely an ignorant tool?”

That’s a false dilemma, and another fallacy. I can’t cover everything in the comments. I just don’t think the Axe articles are that a big a deal, since the sources provided to me by Bill (in addition to my more philosophically-oriented sources) included a lot more. It just turned out that since Axe’s name begins with “A,” he was on the top of the list. It was in the rebuttal period in which I responded to the peer-review question and I thought I was rather modest in my claims, agreeing with Professor Wexler that even a couple of peer-reviewed articles would not even remotedly justify requiring the teaching of ID in public schools.

As I understand Axe’s articles (published in the Journal of Molecular Biology), he is offering an argument that, if sound, provides support for a necessary condition for a design inference. As I noted in a private email to Andrew, I do think that the peer-review article question is an important one, and clearly ought to be asked by ID skeptics. On the other hand, what would precisely count as a pro-ID article is a more interesting question. Suppose, for example, an ID advocate (or sympathizer) publishes a peer-reviewed article in a science journal on the explanatory power of natural selection to account for phenomena X, Y, and Z. Imagine the author concludes that NS does not have the resources to account for X, Y, and Z, offers an argument and evidence to support that conclusion, and then ends it at that. In a sense, this article is and is not a pro-ID article. How would we count this? I suspect that this is where the political debate clouds our judgment. I would say that it does count, but I can see why someone would not count it (like the gentleman above who raises questions about the Axe piece). Because it is rare to find an academic article in any discipline where someone defends his or her entire paradigm, I’m not sure one will ever find an article that defends or supports an entire point of view. He or she usually targets one aspect or argument and goes on from there. For example, it’s probably unlikely that one will find a peer-reviewed science article where one defends “methodological naturalism.” Yet, it is considered by most as much a necessary condition for the practice of the natural sciences as the testing of hypothesis, conceptual clarity, fruitfulness, etc.

I do think that peer-reviewed articles in the philosophy of science are relevant on this matter, since it is only in those journals that these deeper questions can be argued in a more candid fashion.

As I noted in the debate, so much of the rancor on this issue is the result of the intellectual fragmentation of the academy in which really smart people in different disciplines are trained in ways that do not encourage a rich understanding of the interconnectiveness of the disciplines. After all, reality is not divided into science, philosophy, politics, or literature. It’s one world, and I think we can know it, and that knowledge need not be dismissed because it does not fit under someone’s narrow definition of what counts as rationality.

I’m kinda rambling, but these are my thoughts on the matter.

Fellas and gals, I’ve gotta stop this for awhile. I’ve been ignoring my wife for the past few hours, and she is not happy.

I am assessing a debate over Constitutional Law.

To an audience of lawyers, I note. If you think about that you’d recognize the difference between “guilt by association fallacy” on one hand, and “bias,” a very legitimate inquiry, on the other hand, when dealing with statements of fact by a witness or public speaker. Inquiry into bias is even more legitmate when the statements are couched as opinions by self proclaimed experts, philosphers, theologians and lawyers masquerading as scientists. All lawyers who have taken an evidence class and conducted *one* jury trial know the importance of examining into bias.

Some people believe with great fervor preposterous things that just happen to coincide with their self-interest. Coleman v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue (7th Cir.1986) 791 F.2d 68.

And this applies directly to Intelligent Design, which is why it is not pandering to any fallacy to inquire into political and religious motivations of ID proponents, their education in matters scietific, their sources of funding, their scientific peer reviewed publications, their past employment, and their beliefs as to other sciences implicated by ID such as DNA chemistry and radioisotope physcics. Additionally, they should be able to articulate their beliefs regarding common descent and the age of the earth. Finally,they should be able to plausibly state an explanation for the total and complete lack of any scientific research being conducted into irreducibly complex biological systems or calculating the mathematics of real world complex objects to reliably detect design. All of this inquiry goes to bias. Evidence I.

Real laywers know all this.

It is also not pandering to a fallacy to ask why legal and legally trained ID proponents misuse their legal footnotes and cited authorities.

Of course, there are two separate issues here: firstly, should ID be taught in schools, and secondly, is it Constitutional.

The first question is an easy NO, for there is nothing to teach. There is no science behind ID. In science classes they already cover the supposed “gaps” in the evidence that supports natural selection/evolution.

Secondly, if ID proponents argue that their “theory” is not religious in nature, then its a little more difficult to prove the un-constitutionality of teaching it in school. Obviously, there’s nothing in the Constitution about forbidding junk pseudo-science from public classrooms; for example: acupuncture. Constitutionally speaking, they COULD teach acupuncture in public school, though it is a faith-based practice. It is not directly associated with what one would call a religious belief.

However, the particular faith-based component of ID involves the creator of the universe and/or life, which has a direct correlation with most religious beliefs. So even if ID were being promoted by secular scientists, it would still reek of religious belief, and thus its presence in a public classroom could be rejected by the courts as unconstitional. The fact that ID is being promoted by religious ideologues may not make too much of a difference in determining the constitutionality of ID, but one would be foolish to overlook who it is doing the promotion.

For example, let’s debate the constitutionality of teaching a Greek Mythology class, or having a picture of Zeus in a random public classroom, or showing the Disney movie Hercules to schoolchildren on a rainy day.

In one sense, it promotes the ancient Greek religion. But since there is no one who currently believes in the Greek gods, it doesn’t really pose a threat to the separation of church and state. So, in a sense, it does matter who is promoting a particular argument. If the Courts see a mass of Christians promoting ID, it does factor into their decision, for they cannot deny the religious underpinnings of the argument.

Okay, I can’t help myself. I will, of course, be in the dog house soon enough. McFaul raises examples that he believes raises legitimate legal questions about the constitutionality of teaching ID in public schools. He is partly correct. First, it depends on the question being asked. For example, if a teacher brings up cosmological fine-tuning arguments, questions of Darwinism don’t come into play, and thus all the concerns about common descent and biology are irrelevant. Second, McFaul is correct that on issues pertaining to the claim being made–X may be taught in public schools–the substance of what is to be taught and the academic sources (e.g., peer-reviewed articles) are certainly relevant and perhaps despositive. You have no argument from me here. However, questions of a person’s religious or political motivation should be absolutely out of bounds. And here’s why. Supposing a particular view, X, passes the science test. That is, it is a theory held by a significant (though not majority) number of scientists who have published their findings in peer-reviewed journals and offered their point of view in academic venues including conferences, symposia, etc. It would seem to me that X could be taught. However, suppose Mr. Z comes along and points out that proponents of X are 95% Muslim (with Sunnis and Shiites evenly divided) and that proponents of X support a Koranic view of reality. But suppose Mr. Z never points this out. How would the quality of theory change simply because its proponents motives shift from known to unknown. If the theory is well-regarded by the wider community of scientists, even if a majority of them don’t agree with it–it seems to me that the motivation of its advocates has no bearing on its quality. In fact, to exclude that point of view because its legislative proponents (not its scientific ones, let’s say) are overwhelming of one faith, even if the view is well-regarded by non-believers, seems to place a limit on the power of legislators, and smacks at a violation of Article VI of the Constitution, which prohibits a religious test for office (limiting a legislator’s powers based on his beliefs, and not on the content of his legislation, is, for all intents and purposes a “religious test,” since he is being limited in his powers based on his beliefs).

That’s a false dilemma, and another fallacy.

Also a rhetorical device to get you to respond. And what do you know – it worked. Thanks for the lecture anyway, Socrates.

I thought I was rather modest in my claims, agreeing with Professor Wexler that even a couple of peer-reviewed articles would not even remotedly justify requiring the teaching of ID in public schools.

How generous of you!

You keep talking about “requiring” the teaching of ID in public schools, Mr. Beckwith.

It’s odd that you don’t describe the more germane question: is it Constitutional for a teacher at his/her own discretion to teach bogus science in public school science classrooms as a legitimate science, where the bogus science is promoted at substantial expense by folks who obviously see the bogus science as a way to wedge their religion beliefs into public schoolrooms?

For example, it’s probably unlikely that one will find a peer-reviewed science article where one defends “methodological naturalism.” Yet, it is considered by most as much a necessary condition for the practice of the natural sciences as the testing of hypothesis, conceptual clarity, fruitfulness, etc.

Actually, Mr. Beckwith, most people don’t “consider” “methodological naturalism” at all. Like you and me – human beings on the planet earth (last time I checked) – we accept the fact that reality is extraordinarily consistent because that is what we observe with our senses (when we are not on drugs). Our acknowledgement of this observed fact enables us to feed and shelter ourselves. Scientists have somehow managed to make a whole lot of interesting discoveries merely by recognizing that mysterious alien beings – whether they exist or not – do not detectably alter reality (except for drawing the Virgin Mary on the occasional highway underpass).

Testing of hypotheses? Yes, that is a useful approach to learning about nature, as I was taught in fourth grade or thereabouts (but which I had discovered on my own earlier than that, as have many humans of mediocre intelligence or less).

After all, reality is not divided into science, philosophy, politics, or literature. It’s one world, and I think we can know it

Did you read that on the side of a Dr. Bronner’s soap bottle?

Somewhere in this cloud of smoke I saw the words “science” and “reality”. Your task is to explain what all of the bogus Disclaimery Institute propoganda has to do with “science” or “reality.”

Beckwith

Supposing a particular view, X, passes the science test. That is, it is a theory held by a significant (though not majority) number of scientists who have published their findings in peer-reviewed journals and offered their point of view in academic venues including conferences, symposia, etc. It would seem to me that X could be taught. However, suppose Mr. Z comes along and points out that proponents of X are 95% Muslim (with Sunnis and Shiites evenly divided) and that proponents of X support a Koranic view of reality.

Just out of curiosity, can anyone think of any scientific theory that was held by (a) a significant number of scientists and (b) published in peer-reviewed journals and considered seriously by the scientific community as a whole, even those who weren’t necessarily proponents of the theory and (c) favored almost solely by scientists who belong to a particular religious group?

Is there a term for the sort of hypothetical that Beckwith just presented?

“Supposing a particular view, X, passes the science test. That is, it is a theory held by a significant (though not majority) number of scientists who have published their findings in peer-reviewed journals and offered their point of view in academic venues including conferences, symposia, etc”

no. just because several scientists agree does NOT mean it passes the “science” test. You keep assuming that any hypothesis that calls itself “science” and gets published really is science. Science is not done by majority. An idea that attempts to address issues in mathematics, but is published in a peer reviewed journal in philosophy, does not mean it is good mathemetics, or that any mathematician would think it so. similarly, ideas addressing evolutionary theory, but published in molecular biology journal does not mean it passes the “test of science” as far as evolutionary biologists are concerned.

there are basic rules of what constitutues good science, and NONE of the articles presented in ID’s defense, or referenced by yourself, Mr. Beckwith, even come close to meeting the standards of good science.

With that in mind, it seems most here, myself included, find you woefully unqualified to give any kind of legal advice as to what consitutes any kind of legal argument about what is or what is not, science.

“However, suppose Mr. Z comes along and points out that proponents of X are 95% Muslim (with Sunnis and Shiites evenly divided) and that proponents of X support a Koranic view of reality.”

Oh Please! what an absurd argument. ID “theory” can easily be shown to have no grounding in science whatsoever, regardless of any religious or philophical grounding it might have. However, you are simply using that argument to deflect away questions about what your motivations are, not the motivations of the articles in question. And YOUR motivations can explain a lot about YOUR arguments.

One must question, as several here have, what your real motivations are for putting yourself so far out on limb? A limb, i would say, that you don’t even have a clue as to its strength, or whether it will support you as you climb ever further out on it.

personally, I have qualms about misuse, but no real contention against teaching creationism as part of a philosophy course, but it does students a disservice to teach it as science. Evolutionary theory is complicated enough as it is to teach at the secondary school level, without further complications from irrelevant philosophical musings. I have been studying evolutionary theory, as a student, grad student, and after for over 15 years, and still don’t feel i have a complete grasp of the entire field.

You can’t dissociate the legal ramifications from the disciplinary ones. To do so invites others to think of you as not putting much value into the law to begin with.

Beckwith wrote

As I understand Axe’s articles (published in the Journal of Molecular Biology), he is offering an argument that, if sound, provides support for a necessary condition for a design inference. As I noted in a private email to Andrew, I do think that the peer-review article question is an important one, and clearly ought to be asked by ID skeptics.

In fact, Axe does not offer that argument. Dembski persistently misrepresents Axe’s data as suggesting that. Dembski has known since 2002 that his representation of that paper is false and has admitted as much publicly, but he still pushes the misrepresentation both in his own writing and in gulling people like Beckwith into carrying his polluted water.

I advise Beckwith to read Matt Inlay’s analysis of this very point referenced above.

RBH

Whoa — lots of interesting stuff. The rhetorical arguments are out of my realm but I would like to post on a few of the legal comments made in this thread.

1) Francis way back in post 25989 commented on this quote “we can’t expect law students … even to understand science” – Francis stated we can. Well, we can expect that the students understand science but it is never going to happen. As you know as an attorney, a law education is all about grades (unlike grad school, ones rank in his/her law school class can make or break a career) and grades are determined by how well one parrots back to the Prof. what was said in class. Science requires independent thought – something that does not occur in a legal education (might be why there were posts stating that the questioner at the debate was rude and monopolized time – he engaged the speaker and questioned the premise of the speaker’s argument – never happens in law school classes and it must have shocked the hell out of those law students in attendance).

2) Arne @ 26348 – I remember when I was in law school and was derided by a Federalist for not having read Hamilton’s musings on the constitution – the Federalist deemed himself a constitutional law expert based on his readings. He also deemed himself an expert biologist after 1 undergrad class but amazingly (at least to me) my Ph.D., my entire adult life spent in a lab, and my knowledge of the biological topic in discussion was insignificant. Oh the superiority complex law students have . … …

Have a good night all

What does Professor Beckwith mean when he says he does not actually endorse or support ID? I do not actually ensorse or support string theory over the standard model of physics, but I strongly believe string theory to be science, which is probably why it occurs to me to deserve mention in a science class in the public schools. Creationists might more aptly be referred to as Anti-biologists, because to the extent we are talking about a political movement, the motivation and goal is to wholly or partly displace biological content from biology class and to occupy the vacated space with religion instead. Just to call creationism a science, I think smart people on both sides fully realize, is to strike a blow in this turf war. So I can’t help suspect that Professor Beckwith is being sly or coy here in professing agnosticism about ID. It’s nigh on politically or even academically impossible to prove something is not a science, and yet with regard to the intellectual leaders of the political movement to replace biology with religion, why bother? The smart ones don’t themselves believe they’re talking about a science. They are simply consciously deceiving their followers. I suppose before public audiences of innocents we should make sure to present the overwhelming evidence that evolution is science and design is not, but let’s not forget to call these intellectuals what they are. Deceitful, lying sinners. I don’t that Professor Beckwith is in this category, because I don’t know how naive he might be about the profound otherness of ID in relation to the sciences.

What does Professor Beckwith mean when he says he does not actually endorse or support ID? I do not actually ensorse or support string theory over the standard model of physics, but I strongly believe string theory to be science, which is probably why it occurs to me to deserve mention in a science class in the public schools. Creationists might more aptly be referred to as Anti-biologists, because to the extent we are talking about a political movement, the motivation and goal is to wholly or partly displace biological content from biology class and to occupy the vacated space with religion instead. Just to call creationism a science, I think smart people on both sides fully realize, is to strike a blow in this turf war. So I can’t help suspect that Professor Beckwith is being sly or coy here in professing agnosticism about ID. It’s nigh on politically or even academically impossible to prove something is not a science, and yet with regard to the intellectual leaders of the political movement to replace biology with religion, why bother? The smart ones don’t themselves believe they’re talking about a science. They are simply consciously deceiving their followers. I suppose before public audiences of innocents we should make sure to present the overwhelming evidence that evolution is science and design is not, but let’s not forget to call these intellectuals what they are: Deceitful lying sinners. Or bad faith actors, if you prefer. I don’t know that Professor Beckwith is in this category, because I don’t know how naive he might be about the profound otherness of ID in relation to the sciences.

What does Professor Beckwith mean when he says he does not actually endorse or support ID? I do not actually ensorse or support string theory over the standard model of physics, but I strongly believe string theory to be science, which is probably why it occurs to me to deserve mention in a science class in the public schools, relatively new and unvalidated though it is. Creationists might more aptly be referred to as Anti-biologists, because to the extent we are talking about a political movement, the motivation and goal is to wholly or partly displace biological content from biology class and to occupy the vacated space with religion instead. Just to call creationism a science, I think smart people on both sides fully realize, is to strike a blow in this turf war. So I can’t help suspect that Professor Beckwith is being sly or coy here in professing agnosticism about ID. It’s nigh on politically or even academically impossible to prove something is not a science, and yet with regard to the intellectual leaders of the political movement to replace biology with religion, why bother? The smart ones don’t themselves believe they’re talking about a science. They are simply consciously deceiving their followers. I suppose before public audiences of innocents we should make sure to present the overwhelming evidence that evolution is science and design is not, but let’s not forget to call these intellectuals what they are: Deceitful lying sinners. Or bad faith actors, if you prefer. I don’t know that Professor Beckwith is in this category, because I don’t know how naive he might be about the profound otherness of ID in relation to the sciences.

Sorry for the multiple posts. I thought they were failing to post.

Re “I don’t know that Professor Beckwith is in this category, because I don’t know how naive he might be about the profound otherness of ID in relation to the sciences.”

That’s part of the problem, isn’t it? The leaders know what’s up, but some large fraction of their followers are just taking somebody’s word for it.

Henry

You good folks have been conned. You were conned into discussing the Constitutionality of teaching ID in school. It is not science, has not been science and never will be science. It is religion and has always been treated so by the courts. Until the Supreme Court says it is not religion, it is not permissible to teach it in schools. Frank has you chasing rabbits and apparently having a good time doing it. He admits that he is interested only in a good arguement. The world has been full of good arguements that are wrong. That’s why science exists to test theory by observation. He is not interested in that. Points on arguing is a public forum, don’t uless you are experienced at it. You lose 30 IQ points when you standup and end up looking like an ass.

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on April 20, 2005 2:04 PM.

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